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Thoughts on Fixing Manchester United

We dissect Manchester United’s recent fall from grace, and discuss whether arguably the world’s biggest club can once again become a dominant force in world football.

The Glory Years

Growing up as a Manchester United fan I was spoiled with riches. I was just about old enough to appreciate the unprecedented treble winning season of 1999 and I vividly remember the infamous John Terry slip that handed us Red Devils our third Champions League title in 2008.

The great Sir Alex Ferguson’s trophy laden tenure ensured I could always stroll into school wearing a wry smile and poke fun at my pals and their frankly inferior clubs. But after a sensational 2012-13 campaign and an extraordinary 20th domestic league title (that saw Ferguson retire as manager after 26 years and 38 trophies), things started to go wrong… horribly wrong.

Post Fergie

Fast forward to 2019 and United have faded into obscurity when it comes to contending for the highest honours in club football.

During this drastic fall from grace the club has gone through four (very) different managers in just six years, desperately trying everything to bring success back to Old Trafford.

They tried to keep it in house with British manager David Moyes, they tried the veteran with a progressive football philosophy Louis Van Gaal, they tried to fastrack instant success with the banker option in Jose Mourinho, and now they’re trying the feel good factor with former club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Present Day

Despite Mourinho’s relatively successful two-year tenure, in which he secured Champions League qualification through winning the Europa League title coupled with the league cup title, the ex-Chelsea boss failed to win the fans over and was constantly lamented for his pragmatic/ unadventurous brand of football, which (coupled with negative results and player feuds) led to his dismissal last December. He also flat out refused to smile, ever.

The club surprised everyone when they announced that former United ‘super sub’ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be handed the reins as caretaker manager for the remainder of the term, until the summer transfer window – which opened early this week.

The initial expectation was that Ole would come in temporarily to get fans back onside, bringing a sense of optimism back to the club before the board appointed an experienced manager in the summer. But the Norwegian newbie surpassed all expectations during his brief audition.

Fans were in a state of astonishment as the same languid and tired squad they’d written off under Jose began dismantling teams week in week out in emphatic fashion. Pragmatic football was binned in favour of high pressing, creative performances and the side managed a 12-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, triumphing over accomplished outfits like Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Arsenal along the way.

Having become the first ever United manager in history to win his first ever six games in charge, and following a historic comeback win over French giants PSG, Chief Executive Ed Woodward opted to officially appoint Ole as the full-time manager on a three-year deal.

Shortly after the appointment, though, the turbulent themes returned; key performers lost all form and confidence, the breakneck work rate subsided, the goals dried up, and the clean sheets vanished. As expected, United missed out on a top four spot in the Premier League with Ole’s team scraping a meagre return of two wins from 11 games (in all comps) in the run in.

The internal issues have also been compounded by the success of our bitter rivals. Manchester City have recently completed the first domestic treble in British history, followed close in second by a menacing Liverpool outfit – who ran them down to the final day of the season for the Premier League crown; ahead of their own Champions League final next month.

We’re very possibly looking at the nightmare scenario of City securing the league title while Liverpool lift the Champions League in the same year, and if that does transpire, I will literally bury myself in the garden.

Where the problems lie

Painful as it is to say, we need to look at our rivals and follow their example; both on and off the field. United’s infrastructure, recruitment, coaching, academy programme, and handling of contracts are all flawed and need to be examined thoroughly and amended over the coming windows to ensure we don’t enter another age of mediocracy like that of the pre-Fergie era.

The consensus among the fanbase is that the number one priority should be to appoint a Director of Football in order to implement a superseding strategy for player recruitment over the next few years. We simply must have a plan and we must recruit specific players to match that plan exactly, factoring in both ability, longevity, and mentality.

Ed Woodward has come under fire for his constant pursuit of ‘galactico’ type signings since his appointment in 2012, to bring glamour and increased shirt sale revenue to the club. The likes of Di Maria, Falcao, and more recently Sanchez have been nothing short of flops in red and black, with record signing Paul Pogba continuing to divide opinion among the fanbase.

Pursuing of these types of players takes serious time and investment. Meanwhile, vital positions within the current squad are either neglected or filled with either mediocre players or players placed out of their natural position. A damning statement is that three of United’s current back four were regulars in the side when Ferguson was at the helm over six years ago… serious scrimpage from the owners that.

With the Monopoly-esque wages tossed around in football these days, you can imagine that landing even these not so super ‘stars’ costs a pretty penny. Notably, Chilean dud Alexis Sanchez is reportedly raking in a ludicrous 400k-a-week, which is said to have unsettled a large portion of the dressing room who are putting in far superior performances to Sanchez.

My solution (I’m going to enjoy this)

I’m carrying the mantle for all my United bredwin out there. We’re an utter disgrace, we’re in dire straits, we’re… crap. Nevertheless, I’ve been appointed to fix this mess and by Jove imma fix it.

Firstly, the deadwood has to see the door. We’ve been shackled by a serious lack of quality and squad depth for years while teams around us have strengthened with genuine top-class players, and I will not allow it to continue.

Go to any fan-page on YouTube/Twitter/Facebook and you’ll see the usual suspects appearing in 99.9 percent of supporter rants. We all know who they are. Thanks for your service boys, but to the likes of Jones, Darmian, Rojo, Sanchez, Young, Lingard, and Lukaku please just do one. You’re taking up valuable wages and giving back zilch on the pitch, tada.

Secondly, we must go and appoint a highly decorated Director of Football, and not a glorified ‘old boy’ ex player with zero experience like Rio Ferdinand or Darren Fletcher. We don’t need any more ‘yes men’ at the club, we need the best in quality to help heave us from the ditch we’ve dug.

Third, and most pressingly (imo), we must break the bank in the next few transfer windows to ensure we fill the gaps that have been ignored for years.

These new additions must be scouted carefully to ensure they have both the hunger and the talent to succeed at the club, because we’ve accommodated far too many mercenary footballers in recent years who want nothing more than a fat paycheque. My new mantra goes: galacticos in the bin, youth and desire for the win… inspired I know.

Finally, we have to fix player contracts at Old Trafford. United currently pay the highest wages of any Premier League club by a considerable margin and they’ve just finished 6th. Am I being trolled?

The contracts of our players are constantly allowed to run to a near finish in the hope that they will flippantly agree to fresh terms last minute. As a result, we almost lost our most gifted forward, Anthony Martial, in January, we’ve just lost easily our most consistent midfielder in Ander Herrera (for FREE), and our five-time Player of the Year David De Gea looks increasingly likely to leave this summer for a fee way below his worth with his current contract expiring next year.

Unfortunately, I’m not actually part of the club’s infostructure in any official capacity (yet) so I can’t enforce these changes. All I can do is blow off steam with a 1500-word rant and pray that the club get their act together in the near future.

If there’s a remnant of a trace of a smidgen of something positive from the last season, it’s that it was so very bad that we can only look up. We’ve been worn down and we’ll be meek and grateful for very little success. It can’t any get worse than 6th… can it?